Written by Lana Weal on
the 15th of November, 2018
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This is a guest post from Laura Simmons who has been working as an Occupational Therapist (OT) for 5+ years, and she is the founder and CEO of Theratrak – a digital platform where therapist can empower their clients to track their therapy from home. Read what she has to say about the transition.
If you’d told me 18 months ago I’d be running a health tech company, I’d have thought you’d lost your marbles! I’m no coder or early tech adopter… I’m just a passionate therapist who had an idea to solve a problem.
The ultimate aim of an OT is to improve the independence of their clients, and this can be especially important to the family – improving everyone’s quality of life. To do this, my solution needed to add value to each session, improve rates of home program completion, and bring the majority of the Therapist’s admin tasks into the sessions.
There’s still a long road to go to have these tasks fully synced with each OT’s client management software.
Theratrak is already making my life easier, and I’m seeing more motivated clients.
Bringing Health into the digital age
I started working in the health industry six years ago, initially for a company where we hand wrote all our medical notes. It took me FOREVER, and drove me insane.
Surely there was a better way to do this?
When I moved on to working with other companies, though tech capabilities increased slightly, there was still a heavy administrative burden.
In every corner of our lives, digital innovations and tech add value or make something more efficient.
Despite advancements in so many fields, in Australia, the health industry is really only just starting to utilise technology to improve services. A lot of the companies I talk to still hand write medical notes. I’ve spoken to several frustrated OTs about this; they want to leverage tech in their work but are often at a loss where to start.
But, leveraging technology isn’t just for minimising their own workload, they can see its potential to improve the accessibility of prescribed home programs.
This was me, 18 months ago… except I had the concept of how to solve the issues, I just didn’t expect to be the one to design, develop and deliver a digital solution.
Backsliding: losing value from your therapy sessions
One of the saddest parts of my job is seeing kids backslide between appointments, to no fault of their own. Most often, life gets in the way of practising homework. This can be from competing priorities; family complexities, simply forgetting exercise specifics, or losing the homework handout.
No matter the reason, not completing the work makes it more difficult for a child to improve and reach their set goals. Seeing an OT isn’t going to fix anything overnight; annoyingly, we don’t have any magic wand solutions.
As therapists, we set home programs to enable parents and carers to take that information home to practice with the child.
Therapy shouldn’t be forever.
Through these customised home programs, the child should be able to reach their goal, or at the next session the therapist tracks their progress and readjusts the exercise to find a better way of reaching that goal.
Seeing children backslide because homework wasn’t completed is frustrating to me, as well as to the parents. This was the primary trigger to Theratrak.
I wanted to solve the problem.
Solving the problem
In my first efforts to address the problem, I looked to the resources available and settled on trialling calendar reminders with a few clients (via the parent’s mobile). IT WORKED – in hand reminders were right on the mark, it was amazing!
Now how to scale that?
Each clients’ set up had taken 20 minutes. This wasn’t a sustainable option for me, but the trigger concept really assisted the parents. It was simple and meant that no matter where they were, they had the reminders on hand. It’s simply leveraging the tech they already had.
I was excited – but how could I replicate this and make it time efficient for every client?
I see eight kids a day, and barely have time for lunch. Where was I going to find the administrative time to manually log each client’s programs? A quick calculation suggested it’d be 10 hours in the first week, maybe getting down to 7 using repeat reminders.
I was so passionate about fixing this problem. I got busy talking to other OTs and developers about possible solutions, I just never comprehended it to be me to start a company that offered a solution.
But, the ideas just kept on building and led to an amazing meeting with Colette Grgic, BlueChilli’s CIO. I’m pretty sure Colette knew I didn’t have a clear concept of the product, but I had the ideas, I knew the problem, and I was full of energy.
I’ve written about the power of support before, and Colette was one of those supports for me in my early days of Theratrak – she inspired me to apply for the SheStarts Bootcamp.
I did and thus started one crazy journey. Theratrak was shortlisted for the SheStarts Accelerator program in January this year!
Theratrak is 10 months old, and I now run a HealthTech company with a solution to this chronic problem.
It’s a solution that is just starting; we’re still fine-tuning the features and integration options true start up life, forever solving a problem.
People often ask me what’s it like being an OT and running a tech company at the same time.
To be honest, the lines are pretty blurry but the reason I do it and my vision has always remained the same.
I want to bridge the gap between the amazing knowledge of the tech world so that the inspiring people who work in allied healthcare can enable better futures for all kids living with disabilities.
Watch Episode 6 of the 2018 SheStarts Documentary Series where the female founders are preparing for Demo Day, showcasing their progress after just 12 weeks into the program!